With each issue, Trib+Health brings you an interview with experts on issues related to health care. Here is this week's subject:
Clorinda Walley is the executive director of Good Days, a nonprofit organization providing financial assistance to people with chronic disease who are unable to pay for their treatment. She has over 18 years of experience in the health care industry, and has been working in strategic philanthropy for six years. We spoke with her recently about Good Days, its mission, and the burden of chronic disease.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trib+Health: Could you briefly explain what Good Days is?
Clorinda Walley: At the heart of our mission, we are trying to remove any financial barriers or obstacles that patients may encounter when needing to take their specialty medication.
Many times, these patients are having to choose between getting their prescription filled or putting food on the table. It's our mission to ensure that those patients don't have to make that type of decision.
Trib+Health: What type of assistance do you provide?
Walley: From Good Days, patients have the opportunity to receive copay assistance. Just to clarify, many patients we serve, really all of them, are what we call underinsured. So they have insurance, but the insurance doesn’t cover enough of the cost of the medication or the treatment to enable them to take it. So what we do is we'll pay the out-of-pocket costs on behalf of the patient. We will also, in some programs, provide travel assistance to provide the patient a means of getting to and from their appointments.
In some categories, we will provide premium assistance, helping patients pay for premiums to ensure that they can receive the health care that they are needing.
Trib+Health: How do patients in need reach Good Days for assistance?
Walley: To give you a background, many of the medications these patients are needing to treat their disease are held in what we call specialty pharmacy. So generally, you can't walk into your retail pharmacies and find these medications; they're an expensive medication and typically held within specialty pharmacies. So we work with all specialty pharmacies in the country in ensuring they are aware of systems that we provide, and the programs we can help with, so the patient has means of finding us.
We also work with providers' offices, and it's also on our website so that anyone looking for assistance would be able to find us via the internet.
Trib+Health: What criteria do people need to meet to receive assistance?
Walley: A financial guideline — so the patient must make at or below five times the federal poverty level. And the patient needs to be diagnosed with one of the conditions we provide assistance to, and be taking FDA-approved therapy for that diagnosis
Trib+Health: Can you speak to the burden of chronic diseases?
Walley: Seven out of 10 deaths in this country will result from chronic disease, or a complication of chronic disease.
On a personal level, I suffer from a chronic disease myself, which is ulcerative colitis.
Prior to Good Days, I worked in specialty pharmacy. I was director of operations for a large specialty pharmacy, and truly had the belief that I understood the patient. I knew what they were going through, and I thought that I could relate. Not until it was me that I became the patient, that I really was impacted, that I finally realized that I had no idea. There's so many things going on for a patient.
I traveled down a road in which I was very in control in my life. Thought I had everything under control, never really asked people for help. I get put in this situation, and it was debilitating.
Not only mentally, but physically and emotionally — and it impacted everyone around me. Fortunately, I had a family that could help support and help me get through it all. And then of course, you've got financial issues.
Their struggle is real, and it's every single day. And it not only affects them, but their caregivers, their children, and everybody around them.
Trib+Health: How can people donate?
Walley: We accept donations online, or you can call in to set up donations. We also work with several large corporations who have giving opportunities within their corporation and will allow their employees to select from several different organizations, if they would like to donate on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Trib+Health: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Walley: I think that, as a country, I don’t know that we're fully aware of the impact chronic disease has on us. If patients aren’t getting treatment, for example, multiple sclerosis, there's been many studies (that show) when a patient can't take medication as prescribed by their physician, they end up hospitalized.
Health care costs rise when patients can’t take the treatment that they need.